ORCHARD PARK -
Kyle Williams reminded us again Thursday night that it only takes a spark to
start a fire. I don't think this 19-14 Bills victory against an offensively
challenged Miami Dolphins team has re-ignited Buffalo's flickering playoff
hopes. But it does keep the Bills season relevant for at least another week.
The encouraging thing
about this win is that it was delivered by the much-maligned defense that
finally put together a game that lived up to the pre-season hype the unit
received. On a night when the offense consisted of four Rian Lindell field
goals, a 79-yard punt return for touchdown by Leodis McKelvin, and 130 yards of
rushing and receiving by C.J. Spiller, the defense did not rest.
It came to the
It made Ryan Tannehill
play like the rookie quarterback he is - limiting him to just 14 completions in
28 attempts for 141 yards and one touchdown. And, twice, with the game on the
line with under two minutes remaining, safety Jairus Byrd and linebacker Bryan
Scott intercepted the Dolphins QB to put an end the Bills three-game losing
streak and give them their first AFC East victory in nine games spanning 13
months and their first prime-time victory in 11 years.
Mario Williams, the
$100 million man, earned some of his bread, dropping running back Reggie Bush
for a five-yard loss early on, which helped set the tone. And he sacked
Tannehill later on. Bush, who torched the Bills for 203 rushing yards last
December, managed just 20 yards on 10 carries.
finished with just 60 yards rushing - 103 below the Bills average yield - and
just 141 yards passing - 105 below Buffalo's norm. And the 14 points were 32
below the average number the Bills allowed in their previous three division
games - two meetings vs. the New England Patriots and one vs. the New York
So, it's a start, but it's
going to take a lot more fanning of the flames to get these embers
At 4-6, the Bills still
have to get on a roll that sees them win five of six. Next up is a game at
Indianapolis against the Colts and their precocious quarterback Andrew Luck. Win
that game and we can start talking more in earnest about these playoff hopes
being alive. That game will be followed by home games against Jacksonville and
St. Louis, a home-away-from-home game against Seattle in Toronto, a road trip to
Miami and a home finale against the Jets.
On paper, it all looks
doable. But I won't Bill-lieve it until I see it. Long, long way to
We've been duped enough by
these guys. It's conceiveable that Luck could light these guys up for 400 yards.
And it's conceiveable they could bottle him up enough to win this
"I know it's the old
clich,'' Kyle Williams said. "But we do have to play it one game at a time. We
dug ourselves quite a hole. Every game is a must-game. And tonight we won the
first in a series of must-games."
OFFENSE: Spiller was
solid with 91 hard yards on 22 carries and 39 yards on three receptions, but
nobody else really stepped up. The best thing you can say about Ryan Fitzpatrick
(17-of-27, 168 yards, 0 TDs) is that he didn't turn it over. Bills converted
only 2-of-12 third downs, which proved fatal in the red zone. Grade: B-minus.
DEFENSE: Best overall
game of the year. Stopped the run. Stopped the pass. Came up with two
game-saving interceptions and also forced a fumble. Grade: B-plus.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Leodis
McKelvin returned his second punt for a touchdown this season. Lindell drilled
four field goals. And Shawn Powell pinned five punts inside the 20, including a
pivotal one at the Dolphins 1 late in the game. The Bills return team was burned
for a 96-yard kickoff return by Marcus Thigpen. Grade: B.
COACHING: Chan Gailey
admitted he grew a little too conservative in the second half and some of his
red zone calls were baffling. How can you not have your most dynamic weapon on
the field near the opposition's goal line. Defensively, Dave Wannstedt called a
good game. Grade: B.
OVERALL: Well, they live
to fight another day. They have nine days to rest and prepare for Indy, which is
another must-win. Grade: B.
honored columnist and best-selling author Scott Pitoniak has followed the Bills
since the late 1960s, covered them since the mid-1980s and written five books
about their storied history.